A Test against India at the iconic Eden Gardens would have been a cherished dream for Bangladesh cricketers, that too with the country’s Prime Minister among the watchers at the stadium.
But that now seems in jeopardy with their top cricketers, including first-class players, going on strike demanding better remuneration and facilities and streamlining of the domestic structure.
The average Bangladesh cricketer has never been among the most-highly paid in the world, and the players argue that the manner in which the game is run in the country limits their earning potential.
Eleven of the big stars of Bangladesh cricket – including Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah – put forth a list of 11 demands and declared that they will not return to action till these are met.
* The players are dissatisfied by the working of the Cricketers' Welfare Association of Bangladesh, as they feel it has done nothing for their benefit. Hence, they want its president and secretary to step down and their successors elected by players themselves through voting
* Players should be allowed to choose their teams and negotiate salaries with Dhaka Premier League teams, as was the case earlier.
* The Bangladesh Premier League teams are now operated by the cricket board itself. It is demanded that it returns to its earlier franchise-based model with local players allowed to set their own base prices.
* Remuneration in first-class cricket be hiked to one lakh takas per match (approximately Rs 83,700) — almost a three-fold increase from the present level - and an improvement in their allowances and other facilities.
* Number of centrally-contracted players should be increased to 30, and also their retainers.
* Salaries of groundsmen, local coaches, umpires, physios and trainers should be increased.
* There is just one one-day and one T20 tournament in the domestic set-up. One more of each should be started.
* A proper calendar for the domestic season should be finalised in advance.
* Pending payments to the players in the Dhaka Premier League must be cleared.
* The BCB allows its players to feature in only two franchise leagues around the world. That cap must be lifted.
* Improving the feeder system of players so that domestic cricket gets more competitive and the game gets more widespread.
* Though the players have come together citing unsatisfactory administration on BCB’s part, most of the points raised by them directly relate to their income.
* Insistence of playing in more foreign T20 leagues, more domestic limited-overs tournaments and central contracts betray that players are not satisfied with how much they earn at the present.
* That the players want more say in who they play for in the domestic tournaments, and for how much, shows that players are aware of their star value in the country and are eager to leverage it.
* There is great passion for cricket in Bangladesh, but whether there are the financial resources to meet the players' demands is debatable.
BCB caught off-guard
Though a development of this kind couldn't have taken place all of a sudden, the Bangladesh Cricket Board claimed it had yet to receive a formal intimation of the players' strike.
“We have come to know about this through the media. This has not been formally communicated to us. Obviously, the players are very important for us. We will talk to them about these issues. A decision in this regard will be taken at a board meeting in due course,” BCB chief executive officer Nizamuddin Chaudhary said.
“Various demands come to us at different times, and we try to meet them. Today, this issue has come up and we'll definitely discuss it at the board meeting and take a decision.”